Toffee Apple Cupcakes

Never let it be said I don’t go the extra mile for cupcakes. Especially these Toffee Apple Cupcakes. At first glance the recipe might seem a little involved but every single step will be worth it in the end my friend.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes

One of the core ingredients is apple butter – it helps that I made a huge batch of the stuff a couple of months ago when the apples were falling off the trees in the local parks. I took a carrier bag along and scooped them all up. There was no question with what I would do with all of them as apple butter is one of my absolute favourite foods. It combines all of the best toasted flavours of autumn. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, honey, muscovado sugar, apple cider and brandy are all boiled up with peeled, cored and diced apples. Once the apples are soft, then the whole lot is blitzed in the blender and tipped into a roasting dish. The chestnut brown apple puree is then baked low and slow in the oven for a few hours until the colour turns to the bark of an old oak tree, the flavours have caramelised and intensified and your whole kitchen is scented with the most glorious warmth of spiced apples. The puree will become so thick that you could stand a teaspoon up in it and that is when you know it is done.

I had so many apples that I felt just like Diane Keaton from Baby Boom as each jar was carefully filled and labeled. Unfortunately I only kept a couple of jars for myself, the rest has been stored away for me to sell at my preserves stalls which I will be doing around Christmas. So this week, feeling a bit down in the dumps from using up the last of my preciously allocated jars, I did what any normal person would do when they are desperate to make toffee apple cupcakes but have run out of apple butter. I made one single batch, especially for the cupcakes.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes

Actually it’s not too labour intensive once you have prepared the apples and you will only need to do about six for the amount of apple butter you need. Then the rest is just flinging things in the pan and then the oven. The smaller batch of apple butter only takes about 1½ hours from start to finish, and most of that is just the apples doing their thing whilst you are having a cup of tea or flicking through a magazine so I assure you the effort is no effort at all.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes

Apple butter does not only have to be used for these cupcakes though, in fact it’s a travesty if you don’t do what I did the first time I was given a jar by a friend which is to eat it straight from the jar with a teaspoon. It is also wonderful on toast, croissants, scones, accompanied with shortbread, whipped up with double cream and used as a cake filling, baked into tarts and especially eaten with roast pork. The uses are an endless, and I’m sure as soon as you’ve tried it you will be making excuses to include it in every meal.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes

The apple butter is not the only bit of apple going on in these cupcakes though, I also diced up a bramley apple and caramelised it with a touch of sugar and butter then folded the pieces through the batter at the end. Where the apple butter provided a light moist sponge, the pieces of bramley act as a dose of sharp sweetness in the middle of the toasty apple flavours. It’s pure Autumn in a cupcake.

For the cupcakes I photographed I forgot to reserve some pieces of caramelised bramley for sprinking on the top of the buttercream so if you remember I would also recommend dong that.

I also made my own toffee sauce for this, which I whipped up into some swiss meringue buttercream, but if you can’t be bothered then I recommend using dulce de leche instead. It’s a bit thicker and will do fine in the buttercream but may need to be thinned slightly by warming with a splash of milk for drizzling purposes.

Oh, and again, if you can’t be bothered to make these at all then I will be presenting them at my cake stall on Sunday at Falkland Road Market N8. Don’t say I don’t spoil you.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes

Toffee Apple Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 bramley apple, cut into small chunks
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon butter
125g flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
85g unsalted butter
140g caster sugar
1 egg
200g apple butter (recipe below)

  1. Firstly, prepare your caramelised apple pieces. Heat the teaspoon of caster sugar and butter in a frying pan and add the bramley apple. Stir until the sugar and butter have melted together and cook for 5 minutes until the apple is still firm but just beginning to colour. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar on the high setting of your food mixer until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg to the creamed butter and sugar and mix in well.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the apple butter, adding the flour in three additions and the apple butter in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed and mix until just combined.
  7. Finally stir in the pieces of bramley apple until evenly dispersed and portion out into the cupcake cases.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack completely before icing.

Apple Butter

6 apples, peeled, cored and diced (mixture of sweet and sour like Bramley and Cox)
150ml apple cider
2 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and stir. Cover the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the apples are cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  3. Once the apples are soft, pour the mixture into a blender and whizz up until smooth. Pour into a shallow baking tray and place in the oven.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, scraping down all the sides, until the butter is dark and thick.
  5. Allow to cool, then chill until needed.

Toffee Buttercream

4 tablespoons evaporated milk
3 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar
50g butter
3 egg whites (90g)
150g caster sugar
210g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. To make the toffee sauce melt together in a small saucepan the evaporated milk, brown sugar and butter. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool.
  2. To make the swiss meringue buttercream, begin by heating the egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  3. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  4. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  5. Add the salt and the vanilla extract.
  6. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the toffee sauce, but add the rest to the buttercream, mixing in until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes then drizzle with the rest of the cooled toffee sauce.
  8. If you have any pieces of dried apple or reserved caramelised bramley apple then use those to decorate the top.

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

(Escape) The Pina Colada Cake
One of the film websites I read recently had a feature where all the contributors had written about the worst tropes which are fallen back on time and time again on film and TV. One particular entry on this list decried the timeworn use of characters dancing in the kitchen. The writer said it was clichéd, unrealistic and twee. ‘C’mon, who does that?’ they lamented. Well, I do as it happens. I do it a lot to boot and I don’t mind who knows it. Obviously.

The two examples of this common trope which immediately spring to mind are at the end of Mermaids which I re-watched last week where they wiggle along to ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ whilst setting the table. This scene not only led me to become obsessed with that song when I was young, but also made me desperate to be part of their wackadoo family. As a sidenote, I was extra surprised and saddened to hear of Bob Hoskins’ passing a few days ago as it felt like I had only just seen him on top form, I had forgotten he was in Mermaids and on my re-watch his was the performance I enjoyed the most. Such a wonderful actor.

The second example is in the classic episode of Dawson’s Creek when the gang all band together to save the Potter B&B by dancing around the kitchen at breakfast time. Of course their dancing seduces the grouchy critic Mr Fricke into thinking that the Potter B&B is the best place he’s ever stayed in the world and they get a stellar write up. Works every time; Four in a Bed take note. I refuse to believe that these moments are embarrassment ridden or cheesy but they certainly serve as encouragement for me to dance more, for better or for worse.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

In our house we love to dance badly everywhere, the poorer the dancing is the better. We throw ourselves around to the radio first thing in the morning, in the sitting room to perk us up on a Saturday afternoon and most importantly and significantly for this post, in the kitchen. Whilst waiting for butter and sugar to cream, whilst thumbing through cookbooks and most common of all when we are doing the washing up. It is the only thing that makes the dreary chore remotely bearable.

From his very first afternoon in our house whilst we were making the Sunday lunch Puppy has found our love of crazy dancing the best thing in the world. All I have to do is start to shimmy a little bit in time with Katy Perry and he has jumped up ecstatically, paws reaching for my hands so we can prance round the kitchen absurdly like a couple of escaped lunatics. The cats aren’t as impressed.

There are a few songs which absolutely guarantee a good old bop, our current favourite is Pharrell Williams’ Happy which is just invokes such joy but also sends me into fits as it goes hand in hand with those gosh darn hilarious minions. A particular favourite though, and you’ll be happy to know I am now coming to the crux of the matter, is Escape (The Pinã Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. We always put it on when feeling gloomy to cheer ourselves up. As soon as its opening drum beat kicks in Puppy immediately assumes the Tom Cruise from Cocktail swagger, well if Tom Cruise were tiny, furry, four-legged and drunk; still he has the charm in spades.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was obviously listening to this song when I dreamt up this cake and the thought of it makes me smile, not just because it’s delicious but it also incorporates all the happy-go-lucky flavours of sunshine and paradise. It reminds me of dancing round my kitchen with my family and most importantly, it has glace cherries.

I have made this cake several times now and usually when I make something repeatedly I like to tweak things here and there, perhaps modify the icing, take a layer out, change the decoration. This incarnation though was perfect the first time I baked it and I have made it the same way ever since, even down to the number of cocktail umbrellas on the top.

This cake was made this week for a double celebration, it was a request from my husband whose birthday it was a few days ago and I also wanted to include it here to mark my official 99th post. Now, many people may choose to celebrate going into triple figures but hey I like 99. Plus it’s the bank holiday so I wanted to make sure this recipe was on offer to you should you want to make it and dream you are escaping to a tropical island.

Pina Colada Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Escape (The Pinã Colada Cake)

Coconut and Malibu Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe in Short and Sweet

150ml coconut milk
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60ml Malibu
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
275g plain flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder

  1. Heat the coconut milk until boiling then remove from the heat and stir in the desiccated coconut, vanilla and Malibu. Leave to soak for 30 minutes so the coconut softens.
  2. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180°C then line and grease 3 x 20cm round sandwich tins.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on high for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time until evenly combined.
  5. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Fold into the butter, sugar and eggs alternately with the coconut mixture until just incorporated.
  6. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Pineapple Curd

1 227g tin pineapple chunks, whizzed up with juice in blender
3 egg yolks
2½ tablespoons cornflour
75g caster sugar

  1. In a small bowl blend the cornflour with a bit of the whizzed up pineapple until it’s formed a smooth paste.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir constantly on a medium heat until it begins to boil. Turn down heat and keep stirring as it thickens. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Pineapple Frosting

8 egg whites (or 240g egg whites)
400g caster sugar
540g unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
250g pineapple curd

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain-marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 160°F.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will curdle curiously. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the salt and the pineapple curd. Mix in quickly and lightly.

Decorate the cake with toasted desiccated coconut, sun-dried pineapple, glace cherries and cocktail umbrellas.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

The reason I have been absent from posting for a few days is a very good one.  I have been baking this lovely Chocolate Gingerbread Cake extravaganza with stem ginger frosting and decorated with gingerbread houses, each representing one of beloved buildings in Stroud Green where I live.

IMG_3127I was asked by our WI President to make the cake for our Christmas outing to the panto.  A big group of giggling women trooping off to the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park to see Sleeping Beauty is an occasion in and of itself and we definitely made our presence known.  However, the cake was also in celebration of the two year anniversary of the founding of Stroud Green WI.  It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages and backgrounds and we meet once a month for a catch up about local events and charities that we are involved with and also for some brilliant activities.
Stroud Green WI Cake

This year has been an amazing year for our WI, we have has some fascinating talks about design and forensic science, a visit from Wildes Cheese, dress-making lessons from Clare-Louise Hardie from the Great British Sewing Bee, quilting, sugarcrafting, a local history walk, a summer picnic.  And a hell of a lot of cake, which is the most important thing obv.  So I was only too happy to bake this cake and I wanted to make sure it was really special.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake7

The templates for the houses were made the WI way, using card and a craft knife.  The sizes I went with were 10cm x 4cm for the tall thin houses, 10cm x 6cm for the stations and big buildings like Rowans bowling alley, 9cm x 5cm for the average sized buildings and 8cm x 4cm for the diddy ones.  To calculate how many you will need, wrap a piece of string around the circumference of the cake tins then measuring it against a ruler.  I then divided the circumference into the various widths I had chosen, deciding which houses would fit best where.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake3

The Stroud Green WI banner was made with sugarpaste, hung on string and tied to cake pop sticks.

To assemble I placed one half of the 23cm cake on a 25cm cake drum, spreading a good layer of frosting on before putting the second layer of cake on top.  I then lightly frosted all over for a crumb coat.  I did the same with the 20cm cake but built it on top of a 20cm cake board.  I put both cakes in the fridge to set overnight.  The next morning I gave them both a second layer of frosting, inserted four dowels around the centre and into the 23cm cake to act as support then placed the 20cm cake carefully on top.  I added a white sugarpaste border to the cake drum and also a ribbon to the side.  Next I stuck the gingerbread houses onto the cakes which clung to the sticky frosting.  Finally I erected the Stroud Green WI banner onto the top of the cake, pushing the cake pops down as far as they would go so the banner would stay upright.  Then I took along to the panto where it was swiftly demolished – just like our local landmark Rowans bowling is soon going to be (an absolute travesty – what can we do!!??!!)

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake6

Oh, and in case you are wondering – the panto was excellent too!

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake5

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

For the cakes:

495g plain flour
180g cocoa
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
360g unsalted butter
300g light brown sugar
335g caster sugar or golden syrup sugar
9 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
180g dark chocolate with ginger, melted then cooled
360ml whole milk
360ml boiling water
70g dark chocolate with ginger, chopped into chips

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease 1 x 23cm round cake tin and 1 x 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the butter and the sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. At this point the mixture usually looks curdled but don’t worry it will come back together.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed.
  7. Pour in the boiling water and mix until just combined.
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tins, then scatter the chocolate chips on top, pushing them down slightly into the batter. Bake for 45-50 mins but do check after 30 mins and if your cakes are browning too much then place some foil over the top for the rest of the baking. Check they are ready by inserting a metal skewer into the cakes – it should come out clean.
  9. Leave the cakes for 10 mins in their tins before removing then cool on a wire rack completely before cutting in half width ways then frosting.

For the stem ginger frosting:

300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
680g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 balls of stem ginger, chopped very finely or whizzed up in the food processor
1 tbsp of the stem ginger syrup
Good pinch of salt

  1. Heat the egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, the stem ginger plus the syrup and the salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.

For the gingerbread houses
Makes about 28 houses

680g plain flour
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
180g treacle
1½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and bicarbonate of soda together.
  2. Rub in the unsalted butter with the tips of your fingers so it resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the sugars with the eggs, treacle and vanilla extract until fully combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and bring together with your hands to form a dough until everything is combined and you can pat it into a smooth ball.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Whilst it is chilling you can make your templates.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and start your rolling and cutting. I rolled just a small amount of dough at a time due to space.
  8. Form each piece of dough into a round ball then roll out using a silicone roller to avoid sticking. The dough will be a little tough at first but will soon start rolling out beautifully.
  9. Use 5mm spacers on either side of your dough so you can ensure it is all evenly rolled to exactly the same depth.
  10. Place your card templates on the dough then cut out with a knife.
  11. Place each house on a baking sheet with about 2½ cm gap in between. They shouldn’t spread out but it’s good to be careful.
  12. Put the baking sheets in the fridge and chill for 30 mins.
  13. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180°C.
  14. Bake the gingerbread houses for about 6-8 mins each. They are ready when you can barely see the corners just start to crisp but the middle of the biscuits should still be a pale golden brown.
  15. Leave to cool on the trays.
  16. Decorate with royal icing any way you wish.
IMG_3128

 

Cookie Butter Cupcakes

Cookie Butter Cupcakes

These cupcakes are basically a sequel to the Biscoff ice cream I wrote about earlier this week.  Both the cake batter and the swiss meringue buttercream have a few dollops of Biscoffy cinnamon wonder and I’m afraid there is now no going back to plain jane vanilla.  Well, until next week.

I am fully committed down the Biscoff rabbit hole, particularly since I’ve now discovered you can buy it in crunchy form as well which I had to buy to y’know compare and contrast.  At the moment that pot is being eaten by the spoon, I just hope I can hold fire on it for long enough to make it into some sort of a recipe in the next couple of months.

I’m sure by next week I’ll have moved onto the mince pies, stollen and stilton tarts that are waiting patiently in the wings, but I couldn’t resist these little numbers first.  I have to thank the Pioneer Woman for the cake recipe which has been on my to do list for ages, she claimed it was the best sheet cake ever but by goodness does it translate well into cupcake form.  The method seems a bit back to front to how I would normally treat my cupcakes but the end result is so wonderfully moist and light that it’s a real keeper.

I steered clear of calling them Biscoff cupcakes as the batter has only a small amount of spread in there so there is barely a hint of it.  Just think of eating cookie dough but in cake form and you are pretty much there.

Cookie Butter Cupcakes

makes 24

For the cake:
adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

375g plain flour
340g caster sugar
300g soft light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
180ml buttermilk
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
90g Lotus’ The Original Caramelised Spread (Biscoff Spread)
375ml boiling water
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter then stir in the Biscoff spread until smooth. Pour in the boiling water carefully then bring the mixture up to a boil then remove from heat.
  5. Pour the Biscoff mixture over the flour/sugar mixture and stir until halfway combined.
  6. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir gently until the batter is smooth.
  7. Pour the batter into cupcake cases.
  8. Bake for 18 minutes.

For the cookie butter swiss meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites (180g)
300g caster sugar
420g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
180g Lotus’ The Original Caramelised Spread (Biscoff Spread)
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crushed Biscoff biscuits to decorate

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the buttercream will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the salt, the vanilla extract and the Biscoff spread. Mix until thoroughly combined.